Renting glossary: The terms you need to know when renting a property in Australia

Looking for a new place to call home? If you’re new to the Aussie rental game, it can be intimidating trying to decode all the jargon and find the perfect spot within your budget. But don’t worry, we’ve got your back.

We’ve compiled a list of standard rental terms to help you find your dream home and make sense of your lease agreement.

No more feeling like a fish out of water – you’ll be a pro in no time. Happy house hunting!

Arrears: Missed rent payments got you feeling like you’re in the red? Rental arrears is where you owe your landlord/lessor for overdue rent. Keep an eye on your bank account and pay on time to avoid joining this exclusive (but not-so-desirable) group. If you’re struggling to keep up with payments, check out this article.

Body corporate: Think of the body corporate as the boss of your strata-managed apartment or townhouse. This group of joint property owners is responsible for maintaining the common areas and enforcing rules for the use of the property.

Bond: This security deposit, paid to your landlord or property manager when you move in, protects them in case you cause damage to the property or don’t pay your rent. The Bond Administrator holds it until you move out, at which point it will be returned to you (assuming everything is in good order). Just think of it as a little insurance policy to ensure a smooth tenancy for all parties involved. Here’s how the rental bond works.

Breach of agreement: Think of your tenancy agreement as a contract between you and your landlord. A breach of agreement occurs when you fail to fulfil your end of the deal, whether it’s causing damage to the property or falling behind on rent payments. It’s important to keep up with your obligations as outlined in the agreement to avoid any legal snafus down the line. Trust us; nobody wants to end up in court over a rental dispute.

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Counting days: Okay, so this one might not be the most exciting topic, but it’s definitely important to understand when it comes to your tenancy agreement. “Counting days” refers to calculating the number of days in a notice period, which includes factoring in extra time for mailing and excludes the day the notice is sent and the day the notice period ends. Got it? Great!

Deposit: See ‘Bond’.

Eviction: Nobody wants to get on their landlord’s bad side, but if you breach the terms of your rental agreement or fail to pay rent, you might find yourself facing eviction. This is how a landlord legally removes a tenant from a rental property. It’s a serious situation, so stay up to date on your rent payments and follow the rules of your tenancy agreement to avoid any potential eviction drama.

Fair wear and tear: When it comes to your rental property, it’s important to remember that “fair wear and tear” differs from damage caused by your actions. Fair wear and tear refers to the normal, expected deterioration that occurs due to everyday use, while damage caused by the tenant’s wilful or intentional actions or negligence is not considered fair wear and tear. So, don’t be too hard on your rental – it’s only natural for things to wear down over time. Make sure to report any accidental damage ASAP and avoid causing intentional harm to the property.

Fixed-term tenancy: Looking to put down some roots in your rental? A fixed-term tenancy might be the way to go. This type of residential rental agreement allows you to rent a property for a predetermined period, with the landlord and tenant agreeing to the tenancy terms (including the rental rate and any other conditions) in a written agreement. Just be prepared to move out on the agreed-upon end date unless you and your landlord decide to renew the agreement.

Head tenant: As the person who rents the property and then sublets it to another person, the head tenant is responsible for the property and serves as the primary point of contact for the landlord or property manager. You’ll also be in charge of collecting rent from your subtenant and ensuring everyone follows the rental agreement’s terms. Just remember, being a head tenant comes with some added responsibilities – make sure you’re up for the task before taking on a subtenant.

Landlord: See ‘Lessor’.

Lease agreement: See ‘Tenancy agreement.’

Lessor: In the rental world, the lessor is the person who allows you to use and occupy their property in exchange for rent. This could be the owner of the property, an agent acting on their behalf, or even a head tenant who is subletting the property to you. The lessor has the right to collect rent from you and is responsible for enforcing the terms of the rental agreement, so make sure to pay on time and follow the rules to keep your landlord (er, lessor) happy.

Maintenance: When it comes to renting, “maintenance” refers to the upkeep and repair of the property to keep it in good condition. Whether fixing a leaky faucet or repainting a scuffed wall, maintaining your rental is crucial to keeping everything in top shape. These responsibilities are usually outlined in the tenancy agreement between you and your landlord, so read through the fine print to know what’s expected of you.

Notice of termination: Ready to say goodbye to your rental? Make sure to follow the proper “notice of termination” process to end your tenancy agreement. This means giving written notice to your landlord or tenant (depending on who’s initiating the termination) and specifying the date on which the tenancy will end. It’s important to follow the proper protocol to ensure a smooth transition out of your rental property.

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Periodic tenancy: Not ready to commit to a set end date in your rental? A periodic tenancy might be the way to go. This type of residential rental agreement doesn’t have a specific end date, instead continuing periodically (usually month to month) until it’s terminated by either the landlord or tenant. It’s a good option for those who want the flexibility of a shorter-term rental without the pressure of having to commit to a specific end date.

Premises: When it comes to renting, “premises” refers to the place you call home – a house, apartment, or some other type of dwelling. This term can encompass a wide range of housing options, including duplexes, units, flats, caravan sites, caravans, and park homes. It can also include the land the dwelling is on, common areas, and personal property within those areas. “premises” is a fancy way of saying “your place of residence,” which can also include any associated amenities or facilities.

Prescribed form: These are standard, approved documents or forms required in certain circumstances, such as rental agreements or notices to tenants. Prescribed forms ensure that all necessary information is included and that the process is consistent and fair for everyone involved. Make sure to familiarise yourself with the prescribed forms that apply in your state/territory and use them as needed to ensure a smooth rental process.

Property: When it comes to rentals, “property” refers to the physical structure or structures that you’ll be calling home and any associated outdoor spaces like gardens or sheds. This can include a single dwelling like a house or apartment or multiple dwellings like an apartment building. The term “property” may also have common areas or shared amenities like parking lots or laundry facilities. In other words, it’s everything that comes with your rental.

Property condition report: Moving into a new rental? Make sure to check out the property condition report before you unpack your boxes. This document details the property’s condition, including the state of the fixed parts (like walls, ceilings, and doors) and any personal property or furnishings that come with the rental. Property condition reports must be completed when a tenant moves in and out of a rental, serving as a record of the property’s condition at these times. It’s a crucial step in the rental process, so review it carefully to avoid any potential disputes.

Property manager: The property manager is your go-to person for all things related to your rental property. This person is authorised to act on behalf of your landlord in managing the property, including tasks like collecting rent, maintaining the property, and handling your repair requests. They may also be responsible for advertising the property for rent, screening potential tenants, and negotiating rental agreements. In short, they’re the ones you can turn to when you need help with anything related to your rental.

Quiet enjoyment: As a tenant, you have the right to “quiet enjoyment” of your rental property. This means you can use, occupy, and enjoy the property reasonably and peacefully without undue interference from your landlord or other tenants. It includes your right to privacy and the ability to use the property without unreasonable disruptions or distractions. It’s the landlord’s responsibility to ensure that you can enjoy quiet enjoyment of the property, and you have the right to report any issues or concerns if you feel that your right to quiet enjoyment is being violated. In other words, you should be able to relax and unwind in your rental without any unnecessary disruptions.

Rent: As a tenant, rent is the money you pay to live in your rental property. It’s typically paid regularly (such as weekly, fortnightly or monthly) and is agreed upon by you and your landlord as part of the rental agreement. The rent may cover the cost of the property itself, as well as any associated amenities or services like utilities or maintenance. Remember to pay it on time and in full to avoid potential issues with your landlord. Get to know the 30% rule.

Rental bond: See ‘Bond’.

Residential tenancy database: A way for agents to check your rental history and look for any notes against your name from past landlords or property managers. By accessing this database, they can make informed decisions about your application and ensure that their properties are protected from potential breaches.

Security bond: See ‘Bond’.

Subtenant: If you’re not the primary tenant of a rental property, but you’re still paying rent to live there, you’re a “subtenant.” This means you’re renting from the primary tenant, who is responsible for the property and is the primary point of contact for the landlord. As a subtenant, you’re subject to the terms of the rental agreement between the primary tenant and the landlord, so read it carefully and follow the rules to avoid any potential issues.

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Tenancy agreement: This legally binding document outlines the terms and conditions of your rental agreement, including the rights and responsibilities of both you and the landlord. It sets out the tenancy terms, like the rental rate, the length of the tenancy, and any other conditions that apply. It’s a crucial document that will govern your relationship with your landlord, so make sure you understand what you’re agreeing to before you commit.

Tenant: A person who rents a property from a lessor or landlord and pays rent in exchange for the right to live in the property. The tenant is responsible for following the rental agreement’s terms and taking care of the property.

Termination of a tenancy: When the lessor, the tenant or the court ends a tenancy by (1) agreement, (2) the provisions of the Residential Tenancies Act 1987 or a court order.

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